Berlusconi's lawyers say De Gregorio voted his conscience

(ANSA) - Rome, October 23 - Silvio Berlusconi's lawyers on Wednesday said they were astonished the ex-premier has been indicted on charges he bribed former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to switch to his People of Freedom (PdL) party.

''The decision to indict...appears truly extraordinary. Just months ago the same prosecutor's office said corruption had not taken place'', defense attorneys Michele Cerabona and Niccolò Ghedini said.

''De Gregorio...wanted to return to the center right and by his own admission, all votes cast during the legislature were related to his personal beliefs and not to sums of money, whether promised or received'', the lawyers went on.

De Gregorio has told investigators he received three million euros from Berlusconi to leave the centre-left government of Romano Prodi in 2008.

Valter Lavitola, an associate of the ex-premier's, was also indicted for allegedly acting as a go-between.

''As Dr. Lavitola has explained, the cash was given to sort out the accounting situation at L'Avanti newspaper'', they added.

''The trial cannot but shed further light on this situation, and the court will have to recognize the charges are unfounded''.

The trial will begin February 11.

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